Ellen Lloyd - AncientPages.com - As many other ancient civilizations, Vikings had very several interesting burial customs.
Some Vikings burial traditions are understood, but there are also certain aspects of the Norse culture we don’t yet fully comprehend.
There is archaeological evidence Vikings used to bury their children with extremely large and sharp knives. The purpose of placing these artifacts in the tombs is not entirely clear, but one possibility is that the knives should help the little ones in their afterlife.
Nevertheless, this discovery is surprising to archaeologists, but it confirms the theory that the line between childhood and adulthood was very thin during the Viking Age.
The graves of the Viking children were found at Langeland and Lejre in Denmark. The buried children are between 4 to 6-year-old and the graves are dated to the period from 800 to 1050 A.D. Examination of the artifacts discovered inside the tombs reveal the knives are made of steel and are very sharp. They seem almost too large to be used by small children, and yet they were placed there alongside these small bodies.
Life for ancient Viking children was different. Viking children did not have much time to enjoy their childhood. Work, learning, duties and responsibility started at very early age and there was not much time for playing games, but this does not mean it was boring to be a Viking child.
Based on the findings of these knives, researchers think that very young children used to walk around carrying a knife attached to the leather belts.
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Associate Professor of Archaeology at the University of Copenhagen is convinced the knives were not toys, but tools. To the Vikings the knife played an important part in daily life, and this also applied to the children. The knives in the children's graves also show that the knife has been something that followed people from childbirth and throughout life, says the archaeologist.
Unfortunately, our knowledge about Viking children is very limited because few child graves have been unearthed so far. Children are also not mentioned often in Norse Sagas.
Image credit: Michael Nielsen
One reason why we haven’t found many ancient graves containing children could be because only children from the upper Viking class received a proper burial.
Perhaps Vikings buried their children with knives because they thought it was an indispensable tool that one must carry when entering Valhalla. Located in Asgard, Valhalla was the home of the fallen Vikings who died in battle and the kingdom of the Norse god Odin.
Valhalla - Image credit: Leifheanzo.com
Ancient Viking funeral traditions and rituals were very complex. Many relics in ancient tombs reveal that the type of burial a Viking received depended on his importance in the society. Before the age of Christianity, when Vikings still worshipped pagan gods it was common to bury a Viking along with his belongings, often lying in a boat or a wagon to make the journey to the next world easier. People believed the deceased person would need certain objects in the afterlife.
Based on discovered archaeological evidence it seems that the funeral boat or wagon was a practice which was reserved for the wealthy.
Another option was that the Viking was burned and cremation was rather common during the early Viking Age. Ashes were later spread over the waters. The vast majority of the major burial finds throughout the Viking world are cremations. Ship burial was reserved for great Viking warriors.
Over the years, researchers have also learned about rather unusual Viking burial traditions. Did you for example know that Vikings burned and buried their longhouses?
Written by Ellen Lloyd – AncientPages.com
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Ellen Lloyd – is the owner of AncientPages.com and an author who has spent decades researching ancient mysteries, myths, legends and sacred texts, but she is also very interested in astronomy, astrobiology and science in general
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